Grammy nominations: Trends, snubs and what they mean to Nashville
There's lots to unpack from the long — and notably inclusive — list of nominees for the 61st annual Grammy Awards, which was revealed Friday. Along with the local acts vying for the top prizes, here's what else Music City residents should take note of:
Female artists put Nashville back in the conversation
First and foremost, without a few key female artists, Nashville wouldn’t have much to sing about at next year’s ceremony.
Remember last year’s dismal nominations? Country music didn’t have a single nominee in any of the all-genre categories — which hadn’t happened since 2004. This year, the genre can claim four artists up for top prizes, and all but one are female.
Kacey Musgraves’ acclaimed ”Golden Hour" is nominated for Album of the Year, while Maren Morris' crossover pop smash “The Middle” is nominated for Record and Song of the Year. Independent country favorite Margo Price landed an overdue nod for Best New Artist, along with country chart-topper Luke Combs.
The strong showing of female nominees, of course, comes at a time when women have undeniably lost ground on country radio. This week’s Billboard Country Airplay chart doesn’t have a single female artist in the Top 20 — and that has literally never happened before.
What makes an artist 'new?'
The 2019 Grammy nomination list of Nashville artists included Maren Morris and Chris Stapleton The Tennessean
Margo Price’s nomination for Best New Artist might come as a surprise — but only because many observers thought she would have been nominated for the award two years ago, on the heels of her breakout 2016 debut “Midwest Farmer’s Daughter.”
How does the Recording Academy decide if an established artist is “new?” They say artists are selected for the category “if their eligibility year release/s achieved a breakthrough into the public consciousness and notably impacted the musical landscape.”
That’s a hard sell with Price, who spent the first half of 2016 appearing on “Saturday Night Live.”
Taylor Swift among surprising snubs
Can you be nominated for a Grammy Award and still be snubbed? We think yes.
Even though she had Billboard’s top album of the year, Taylor Swift and her “Reputation” were left out of the big four all-genre categories. In 2016, Swift picked up her second Grammy trophy for Album of the Year with “1989,” a feat that made her the first female to take the night’s top honor twice. “Reputation” scored a lone nod in the Best Pop Vocal Album category. Her long-running hit radio single “Delicate” was completely ignored.
These are the top 4 artists that didn't get love (or not enough love) during the Grammy nominations. USA TODAY
Carrie Underwood won New Artist in 2007 and since then, the singer has been nominated for a trophy every year except 2014 – and now 2018. This omission is particularly shocking since Underwood released a new single and a new album during the voting period. “Cry Pretty” was of high interest because it was her first release since she left longtime label home Sony Music Nashville and signed with Universal Music Group Nashville, also home to multiple nominee Kacey Musgraves.
Underwood co-produced the album and stacked it with soaring vocals and meaningful messages. Still, apparently, not enough to endear Grammy voters.
Two of country music’s most poignant songs – Luke Bryan’s “Most People are Good” and Chris Janson’s “Drunk Girl” – were left off the ballot despite radio success and significant critical acclaim.
Kane Brown, a multi-platinum selling fan favorite and radio darling, was also left off the list.
Luke Combs did land in the top four as a New Artist nominee, but he didn’t get any country nominations regardless of having one of the year’s most popular country albums.
On the rock front, Nashville resident Jack White is typically a shoo-in for a rock album/performance nomination, but this year's off-the-wall "Boarding House Reach" didn't lead to any nods.
Expanding the pool
For the first time, the Grammys have expanded the number of nominees in four major all-genre categories. Album, Record and Song of the Year, as well as Best New Artist, all have eight nominees instead of the usual five.
That's a big change for a 60-year-old awards ceremony but Neil Portnow, President/CEO of the Recording Academy, points to a few reasons for doing so. The above categories easily receive the most submissions for nomination, so "the ability to have more opportunity for recognition is in many ways intuitive."
But "the other piece of it," he says, is in the interest of diversity and inclusion.
"When you have more spots, you have more possibilities, and ability for diversity and inclusion to find its way. That was clearly another one of the motivations to do this."
Kendrick Lamar, Drake and Brandi Carlile will compete in the top three categories at the 2019 Grammy Awards, with other nominations going to Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, Post Malone, and Cardi B. (Dec. 7)